Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day treat for the birds

We had a couple of apples sitting on our kitchen counter for a few weeks.They were getting old and wrinkly and I was wondering what to do with them. I read an article in my favourite country magazine about making a winter treat for birds from leftover fruit.

I got really excited about the idea and snuck down at 6:30am on Christmas Day to check online whether birds in our region eat apples. Apparently, they do. To make the feast even more festive I decided to use up some leftover cranberries.

I cut the apples in half and removed the seeds; I read that they might not be that good for birds.

I hung the apples on a jute rope and tied a spruce sprig on the bottom to keep them from sliding off.

I strung the cranberries to create a garland.

With Misha's help we tied the treats to our apple tree in our back yard. The tree is the birds' favourite stopover before landing on our bird feeder. 

Hopefully, the birds will enjoy this little Christmas Day treat.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Natural Christmas tree ornaments

In a week, we went from decorating our tree with lights and ornaments from a big box store, to returning them all and making our own natural decorations.

We originally bought lights and glass ornaments from a local store. We strung the lights but once we plugged them in we found them too harsh and bright.

Misha happily agreed to take the lights off as he had been grumbling about bringing more plastic into the house. We removed the Christmas lights and finished decorating the tree.

The next day, as I was looking at our decorated tree, I thought it would be fun to make our own natural ornaments like in the old days. We could use pine cones, walnuts, oranges and cranberries. I showed Misha a couple of pictures of what I meant and he jumped right at it.

We returned all the store bought ornaments and got ready to make our own. We sliced and dried oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and grapefruits ...

 ...strung up fresh cranberries...

...glued ribbons to walnuts and pine cones...

... and made a star from twigs, jute and ribbon.

Our kitchen was like an old fashioned ornament factory. The delicious aroma of the drying oranges mingled with the scent of the balsam tree and a beeswax candle to fill the house with a festive feeling of comfort and joy.

We hung the ornaments on the tree and  placed the home made twig star on top. The tree came alive with natural textures, colours and aromas. We love how all the ornaments are plant based and can be composted or used to feed our backyard birds. Now that we know how easy and fun it is to make our own natural ornaments we are already excited about new ideas for next year.

We wish you all a happy and peaceful holiday season!

Mia and Misha

We will post a separate 'how to' for those that are interested in knowing how we made the ornaments.

Natural Christmas tree ornaments

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Festive front door arrangement

Since being shut down by Mia recently from buying greenery for our festive planter I have been on the lookout for free and sustainable materials for holiday decorations. We saved another $25 today by using branches trimmed from the bottom of our Christmas tree to make our front door arrangement.

I persuaded Mia to go for a walk in the nearby ravine and collect some dead materials to decorate the branches.  Armed with an umbrella, camera and clippers we headed into the ravine.

It didn't take us long to find some interesting dried plants. We picked up some dried up burdock.

 ...and some sumac seed heads. Sumac has a beautiful deep red colour and a velvety stem. The seed heads can also be steeped to make a high Vitamin C wilderness lemonade.

We collected some other dried plants and brought them home to add to the branches. Mia used jute and natural burlap ribbon to tie the arrangement together and hang it beside our front door.

All free, all natural, all sustainable front door decoration.  Savings- $25.  Fun putting it together- priceless!


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Christmas tree shopping at IKEA

We picked up our Christmas tree today. It has been a three year tradition for us to get a live tree from IKEA. Their selection is great, the price is right at $20, you get a $20 IKEA coupon and IKEA donates a portion of the sales to Tree Canada. We like the taller ones that go right up to the ceiling in our living room; for us the "taller the better".

Christmas tree selection at IKEA

We were quick this time; it only took us 10 minutes to spot the ONE. It's tall, bushy and smells incredible.

We also picked up two boxes of UNICEF Christmas cards at IKEA. We don't usually buy paper cards but these are made with trees grown with sustainable forest practices and recycled materials. The best part is that the money goes a long way. You can read on the back of the boxes what your contribution gets. On our cards it says that the purchase of these cards can provide Vitamin A doses to 64 kids.

UNICEF Christmas cards from IKEA
We needed to buy a tree stand as well. Misha is in his "let's not buy any plastic" phase so we got this steel tree stand instead of a plastic one from Lowe's. I must admit, it's a bit too red for my taste, but the price was right and Misha threw in the "it's the same one I had as a kid" line, so we just had to get it.

Christmas tree stand from Lowe's

Our tree, tree stand, decorations and cards are all home now. Next weekend it's time to decorate.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Front porch Christmas decoration

December 1st is our official Christmas decoration start date. We drove by Home Depot to check out their outdoor decorations. Misha got really excited at the sight of the live evergreen Christmas wreaths and was ready to spend $40 on three different ones. I suggested that maybe we should try to make them ourselves instead of spending money on ready made decorations. He accused me of being a Grinch but reluctantly agreed to my idea.  

To get some decoration ideas, I popped into Goodwill on my way home from work. I spotted Rudolph for $3, to which I couldn't say no to, and this amazing clay pot for only $6.
Goodwill finds - Rudolph and a clay pot

They both quickly made it into the official Christmas decoration inventory. The clay pot made its way to the front porch.

Clay pot waiting for the decoration

We picked up fallen branches, collected some dried up garden flowers and arranged them in the pot.

Christmas pot arrangement

We thought maybe a bit of colour would do it good so we added some red Christmas ornaments and a ribbon and voila...... this year's porch decoration is all done.

Front door Christmas decoration all done

Christmas decoration on the porch
Rudolph gets a spot too

Cost for this project was only $8.00; $6.00 for the pot and $2.00 for the ribbon and ornaments.  We will reuse the pot in the spring. The rest of the materials were free, found in our garden or neighbourhood.  For the decoration we used:
  • Fallen pine boughs picked up by Misha in the neighbourhood
  • Apple tree twigs pruned from our tree last spring
  • Pine cones collected from the neighbourhood and our yard
  • Dried up Black-eyed Susan from our backyard
  • Red Christmas ornaments and a red ribbon from the dollar store

We had so much fun making this decoration and love the way it turned out. We keep taking quick peaks at it from our front door.  It creates such a lovely, festive ambiance.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

How I made my own wedding dress

I had never made any dresses, skirts, tops or pants before. As a matter of fact, I had never made any single clothing item in my life. I do have a sewing machine and have been sewing totes and making small alterations but that's as far as my sewing experience goes. This is my short journal of how I made my own wedding dress (with my Mom's help) in two weeks without a pattern or any experience in dress making.

4 months before the wedding
We set the date for the wedding and I tell Misha that I want to make my own wedding dress. He is shocked, to say the least. He very gently points out that me making my own dress might be overly ambitious. I think he just wants to make it easy on me but I know it can be done.  Instead of wasting my time searching for the ONE dress, I can just make it exactly the way I want it and save time and money. It would be a sharp learning curve; like being in a sewing bootcamp. 

7 weeks before the wedding 
I finally start planning for the dress. I start researching and figuring out what type of dress I would like and how I am going to make it.  I love long, flowing ball gowns made from natural light fabrics. I also like romantic lace tops and delicate veils.  I make this  little sketch of what I envision. I realize how much it resembles the princesses I used to draw as a little girl.

Wedding dress sketch

6 weeks before the wedding
Still searching for online inspiration. I find this image and love the rich pleated skirt and wide belt. I love how light, crisp and full it looks. I think I found the look for the skirt.
Amsale wedding dress - see source

5 weeks before the wedding
It's time to make my sample dress. I pick up 8 metres of cheap muslin and search out a you-tube tutorial on pattern making. I find this great lesson on couture draping on a dress stand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkppkQEyXG4&feature=related. I follow the instructions to the dot and create a sample bodice for my measurements. It fits perfectly. I am impressed. I really get  into it and make a sample skirt as well, but I am not that happy with it. The skirt will need more fabric to make it fuller.

4 weeks before the wedding
I am having a moment. I tell Misha that we might have to cancel the wedding. The dress is not coming together. He laughs and tries to be supportive. I lighten up as well.
I get back to sewing and remake the skirt by adding more fabric to it. It looks  fuller now. I am optimistic again.

3 weeks before the wedding 
Mom arrives and I am relieved to have her with me. Her sewing experience is invaluable. She learned to sew from my grandmother who was a seamstress. I look forward to working with her on the dress and getting some century old sewing tips.  This is becoming a family tradition; my grandmother helped make my mother's  dress.

2 and a half weeks before the wedding
It's time to have some fun. Mom and I are going fabric shopping to Queen St. West. We admire the amazing assortment of luxurious fabrics. Lace, silk and velvet are stacked to the ceiling. We are in paradise!

We buy 1 1/2 metres of french lace. It is VERY expensive but a must. I could have gotten away with less but wanted to be on the safe side. For the skirt and a short sleeve bodice we buy 6 metres of silk dupioni. GORGEOUS fabric! Happy about going with ivory instead of bright white. Gives it a nice soft, vintage feel.

14 days before the wedding
Mom and I officially begin working on the dress. I keep calling it a dress but it's actually a two piece. Making it as a two piece makes our life much easier. I start with the skirt. It goes well and I finish it in a day. I have high hopes for finishing everything in a few days. Hm...if I only knew...

13 days before the wedding
I watch several 'how to' videos and start working on the petticoat. I want the skirt to be big and puffy, which means a LOT of crinoline for the underskirt. We soon run out of crinoline and Misha drives us to Fabricland. Luckily, it's five minutes from our house. We have no time to waste.

Petticoat in making

12 days before the wedding
Still working on the petticoat. I am sewing on layers and layers of crinoline. The skirt is still not full enough. Let's add another line of frills.
We do another Fabricland run. I pick up a half  metre of beige faux fur for the shawl wrap we want to make. It's fall after all and I like being warm, even on my wedding day.

10 days before the wedding
Taking it easy. The petticoat is coming together. I am feeling very optimistic.

Petticoat almost done
8 days before the wedding
It's a beautiful fall day. We take the day off and get out of the house to check out a local organic market. I am surprised how relaxed we are with the wedding in a week and no dress yet.

7 days before the wedding
It's time to tackle the top. We start with the sleeveless silk bodice. We use the muslin sample top as a pattern. It's not going smoothly. We are having some trouble fitting it well.
Misha keeps asking how the dress is coming along. I think he is starting to get worried.

6 days before the wedding
The top is giving us more headaches than we thought. The lace is very difficult to work with. It doesn't fit well with the silk bodice. We are being patient and still don't panic. 

5 days before the wedding
Tragedy strikes! I slip and fall on the back porch steps and spend the evening at the ER. The outcome is a fractured elbow. Luckily no nerve or muscle damage. My whole left arm gets a cast. Not good timing!

While I am in the ER Mom finishes the shawl wrap. It looks beautiful!

4 days before the wedding
Work must go on and I am handling the sewing machine with one hand. Mom is doing all the hand stitching. I can't be more grateful. She is amazing!

Sewing with a cast on
The dress has to be adjusted to my full arm cast. The left sleeve is cut short. We also keep the side open so I can put the top on. I am also thinking of covering the cast with some leftover silk fabric. At least it will match.

2 days before the wedding
We are frantically trying to finish the dress. The bodice still doesn't fit well. Trying it on with the cast is also a nightmare. My arm hurts a lot when I lift it. 
Misha stopped asking how the dressmaking is going. I think he's got the picture.

1 day before the wedding
The dress is still missing some snaps and hooks and the silk cast cover is not done. Mom is finishing up the veil. I am going to sleep at midnight. I am exhausted.

45 minutes before the wedding
My hair and make up is done and I am all dressed. A friend is stitching together the silk cast cover on me. We have 15 minutes to go. 

30 minutes before the wedding
The dress is ready. I am ready. The show is on. Let's get married!

And we live happily ever after.

3 weeks AFTER the wedding
Still waiting for the official wedding pictures but here are pictures of the dress on the stand. 

My wedding dress - the final look

Lessons learned : 

  • Don't leave the making of your wedding dress to the last minute. 
  • The petticoat makes the dress.
  • Always make your own veil, it takes 10 minutes.
  • Family is the best.

This post is dedicated to my Mom who has been an incredible support and help throughout this process.